One of the pieces of misinformation floating around the web is the claim that the COVID-19 vaccine contains a microchip that can allegedly gather personal information. Not so, say experts who explain these as a chip on the exterior of some vaccine syringes to help track doses, not people.
One conspiracy theory about the vaccine microchip is that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates masterminded the chip to keep track of who has been vaccinated, according to BBC News. Some people even believed that Gates invented the pandemic so he could inject people with a microchip using a vaccine to make money.
The microchip theory gained legs after several skewed videos about the alleged invasive microchip went viral on the Internet. One such interview exposed a government contract with a startup firm that planned to include a microchip on its single-use syringes.
But according to Poynter, Jay Walker, executive chairman of ApiJect Systems America, explained to Elizabeth Johnston, a Facebook activist and blogger, last December that the chip works like a bar code to help public health officials track vaccines — not people.
ApiJect was awarded a $138 million dollar contract with the Department of Defense to increase the U.S. production of medical injectable devices to “dramatically expand U.S. production capability for domestically manufactured, medical-grade injection devices” last year.
However, some skeptics claimed that the microchip was in the vaccine itself and could be used to trace vaccine recipients and their locations, according to USA Today. In fact, the radio-frequency identification chips, or RFID chips, are on the outside of the prefilled, injectable syringes and contain unique serial numbers for each dose, said Walker.
He explained that the serial numbers prevent counterfeiting and mark the expiration date of the vaccine. He said that no personal information is recorded on the elective tracking device. During his interview with Johnston on December 9, he said that the government had not yet decided to use the RFID option.
The contract, called “Project Jumpstart,” called for ApiJect to make up to 330 million pre-filled syringes each month. Experts say that tracking vaccines with RFID technology help public health officials keep tabs on vaccination coverage by scanning a Near Field Communication or NFC chip.
“By scanning the chip on a cellphone app, the chip will transmit information about the drug’s expiration date and that it is not a counterfeit product,” Steven Hoffman, an ApiJect company spokesperson, told USA Today. Hoffman said this information would be stored anonymously on a cloud device and would include no personal data on the chip or the cellphone app.
Some viewers of Johnston’s Facebook video seemed to think the NFC chip would be planted into the body and they voiced their protest.
“The chip is not an injectable device,” insisted Hoffman. “It is like a bar code on a food item. The chip transmits information. It does not gather any. The chip is located on the outside of the container holding the vaccine.”
Hoffman reiterated that the government has not yet decided to use the technology on the vials’ single-dose vaccines.
Experts told USA Today that the chip can be used to track who received the vaccine and its authenticity but cannot track the patients themselves.
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